Bouchon Bakery: Apricot Tart with Almond Cream

One of the cooking clubs I take part in is the Food52 Baking Club and for the month of January we are baking through Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel. My aim is to bake at least 3 recipes from the book this month and to review it at the end. For my first bake I’ve chosen the Plum Tart with Almond Cream, using apricots instead of plums because our tree is mass producing them at the moment.

There were three basic components to this tart, none of which were difficult or time consuming (except for refrigeration time before use, which seems to be quite common throughout the book) – a pate sucree, an almond cream and sliced fruit.

The pate sucree was different from other pastry recipes I’ve used in the past as it contains almond meal as well as flour, uses icing sugar mixture instead of granulated or caster sugar and also incorporates vanilla in the dough. Basically, cream the butter and add one portion of the icing sugar, then add the vanilla and incorporate the flour and almond meal and the other portion of the icing sugar that has been sifted together and lastly add the egg. Work the dough and shape it into two discs (it makes enough for 2 tarts) and put it in the fridge to firm up before rolling out and baking.

The almond cream was similarly easy and with almost the same ingredients but proportioned differently. Again cream the butter and add the icing sugar, then a sifted almond meal/flour mixture and finish by adding the eggs. This gets placed in a covered container in the fridge until cold and then piped (I just spooned it) into the prepared unbaked tart base.

Then lastly get your kitchen hands (aka the darling husband and 6 year old daughter) to slice and arrange the apricots on top before placing it in the oven to bake. The recipe says 350F/180C for 45 minutes but our oven being fan forced and running hot tends to cook much quicker so I put it in at 150C and as you can see, it’s still rather dark around the edges.

This will be dessert tomorrow night as it says to refrigerate until cold to get nice, precise slices – but it is rather tempting to slice into now for a late night snack. Overall, I loved the simplicity of ingredients and method for this recipe and having something that looks impressive that can be easily adapted to different seasonal fruits makes this dish one that I can imagine I will gravitate to again.

Wholemeal cheesy pasta with garden salad

Went into my sadly neglected kitchen today and turfed a whole bunch of food that had gone off or was past its use by date and had to resign myself to the fact that Christmas is over and leftovers are all but gone now. Time to get back into the kitchen and actually cook, and not just pull out containers from the fridge and dish out onto plates and at the very most zap them individually in the microwave. So our first Meatless Monday meal of the year was something very simple and ultra comforting – wholemeal cheesy pasta and a ‘whatever is in the fridge that needs using’ garden salad.

The recipe is dead simple and it was on the dinner table in 30 minutes.

Firstly the ingredients: 500 grams wholemeal penne pasta, ¼ cup unsalted butter, ¼ c plain flour, 2 ½ cups milk, 1 tspn each paprika and dry mustard, 450 grams grated or cubed cheese (I used Monterey jack), salt and pepper to taste, bread crumbs (optional)

Put a large saucepan of water over high heat until it comes to a boil, add salt and pasta, then cook according to packet instructions (mine said 9 minutes). Meanwhile in a slightly smaller saucepan make a cheese sauce. Melt the butter and the add the flour and whisk until a roux is formed over medium high heat. Slowly add the milk and whisk constantly until it thickens. Then stir in the paprika and mustard and add the cheese and leave to melt over low heat, stirring occasionally. Season to taste.

Drain the pasta and put into a large casserole dish and stir through the cheese sauce.

Top with breadcrumbs and toast for 15 minutes in a hot oven. While this is toasting, throw together a salad.

In our salad bowl tonight: cos lettuce, 2 diced tomatoes, 2 peeled and sliced cucumbers from a friend’s garden, ¼ of a finely diced red onion and store bought ranch dressing.

Serve and enjoy!